The biggest fighting game tournament of the year, Evo 2016, takes place in Las Vegas this weekend, July 15-17, bringing together some of the best fighting game players from around the globe. This year's competition will host thousands of fighting game enthusiasts — more than 5,000 players will be battling it out in Street Fighter 5 alone — competing in the nine fighting games.
If you have even a passing interest in fighting games, or just want to see what the fuss is about, this is the esports event to watch.
This year's Evo will see players competing in Street Fighter 5, Super Smash Bros. for Wii U, Super Smash Bros. Melee, Pokkén Tournament, Guilty Gear Xrd Revelator, Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3, Mortal Kombat XL, Tekken 7 and Killer Instinct.
Capcom’s Street Fighter 5 is the most popular game at Evo 2016, with 5,107 registered players. More than 5,000 players combined are registered to compete in the two Smash Bros. games at this year’s tournament. Tekken 7 and Killer Instinct have the smallest number of players, about 550 playing in each.
Evo 2016 starts on Friday, July 15 at 8 a.m. PT and runs late into the evening on Sunday, July 17. If you're planning on being in Las Vegas during that time and don't already have a pass, you’re probably out of luck. Sunday's finals, which are being held at the 12,000-seat Mandalay Bay Events Center, is 100 percent sold out. Watch it from home instead.
Where can I watch Evo?
You can watch most of it streamed live on Twitch. There are four official Evo channels (srkevo1, srkevo2, srkevo3, srkevo4) and one from Capcom (capcomfighters) that is dedicated to Street Fighter 5 this weekend. The main attractions, including the finals for each game, will be livestreamed on srkevo1, but you might have to poke around a bit to find the fights you’re interested in.
Fortunately, the official Evo 2016 stream schedule is pretty straightforward.
What do I need to know to watch Evo?
If you've never watched a fighting game tournament like Evo, titles like Mortal Kombat, Smash Bros. and Street Fighter are good gateway games. The action is generally pretty easy to understand, even if you aren't familiar with the technical intricacies of each title.
If you do find yourself confused by or curious about fighting game terminology, you can brush up on some commonly used terms with Shoryuken's fighting game glossary, so you'll know your "footsies" from your V-Triggers. This Smash Bros. glossary on Reddit helps explain terminology like "teching" and "wavedashing." A few game-specific spectator guides for Guilty Gear Xrd Revelator, Pokkén Tournament and Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 dive more deeply into each game’s vocabulary and mechanics. This new player guide (links to a series of informative videos) can help you better understand how Street Fighter 5 plays.
For a bit more depth, you might want to read — or at least skim — Patrick Miller's From Masher to Master: The Educated Video Game Enthusiast's Fighting Game Primer. Miller's free ebook touches on beginner strategies and fighting game fundamentals, with an emphasis on Capcom's Street Fighter games. The book provides a bit more explanation on some of the fighting game terms you might hear discussed by commentators during matches.
Why should I watch Evo?
It’s exciting! Here are a dozen highlights from Evo 2015 that show how intense the competition can get.
But the best example may be Evo's most popular moment: this legendary Street Fighter 3: 3rd Strike battle between veteran fighters Daigo Umehara and Justin Wong from Evo 2004. It's more than just an astounding display of fighting game skill, it captures the thrill and atmosphere of the competition — and it features excited commentary from fighting game expert Seth Killian, who, to this day, provides smart, concise analysis for Street Fighter matches at Evo. I've found that showing non-fighting game fans that particular match and explaining why it's so captivating can be a good introduction to spectating competitive fighting games. The fact that those two players are still competing at Evo — Umehara will compete in Street Fighter 5, Wong will compete in Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 — helps. It gives new fans someone to root for (or against).
For a more detailed breakdown of why the Umehara-Wong fight is so interesting, you can read a moment-by-moment breakdown of the fight — analyzed by Killian — in this archived post from the defunct Penny Arcade Report.
Evo 2016 starts at 8 a.m. PT on Friday, July 15. Polygon will be in attendance covering the tournament and schedule panels all weekend long.